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Mike Piazza in Slaughter

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I had no idea who that was until I read the link. I wonder why MCB keeps trying to connect ballet with sports. I guess it might work. I have no idea.

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Many companies cast celebrities for guests at "Nutcracker" and other story ballets. It gets the company free news coverage and brings in people who wouldn't consider going. When PNB cast a UW basketball star as Grandfather, his teamates came, as did, I'm sure, a number of his fans.

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It's been picked up all over the place - The Daily News had one of its usual photo-mashups - and I happened to be watching Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan when they spent a few minutes discussing it on their morning gab show, with several complimentary references to MCB. And it's nice that he's doing it at the behest of his daughter. “It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing the reaction of my two little girls,” Piazza said in a statement. “For (Nicoletta) to have the opportunity to see Daddy on stage is my little gift. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hard to buy publicity like that.

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It's been picked up all over the place - The Daily News had one of its usual photo-mashups - and I happened to be watching Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan when they spent a few minutes discussing it on their morning gab show, with several complimentary references to MCB. And it's nice that he's doing it at the behest of his daughter. “It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing the reaction of my two little girls,” Piazza said in a statement. “For (Nicoletta) to have the opportunity to see Daddy on stage is my little gift. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hard to buy publicity like that.

So sugary...yucky.gif

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A Google News search of "'Miami City Ballet'" and "Piazza" yields results from USA Today, LA Times, the "Bleacher Report" (not known for its ballet coverage), the UPI wireservice, the Pottstown Mercury, CBS Sports, SI.com (Sports Illustrated), and the International Business Times, among others. All free coverage.

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It's been picked up all over the place - The Daily News had one of its usual photo-mashups - and I happened to be watching Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan when they spent a few minutes discussing it on their morning gab show, with several complimentary references to MCB. And it's nice that he's doing it at the behest of his daughter. “It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing the reaction of my two little girls,” Piazza said in a statement. “For (Nicoletta) to have the opportunity to see Daddy on stage is my little gift. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hard to buy publicity like that.

So sugary...yucky.gif

now now christian... smile.png

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Piazza is just for Miami, and I'm not sure whether for all performances there. At the Kravis, the "Gangster" was alternated between Renato Penteado and Carlos Guerra. Both looked great. Penteado had some difficulties with his only laugh line ... "I woulda worn my tux.".

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I had no idea who that was until I read the link. I wonder why MCB keeps trying to connect ballet with sports. I guess it might work. I have no idea.

The idea may be "Get 'em in and hope they like it!", the phrase I evoked once from someone in ballet marketing. But what will "it" be? We'll see what Piazza actually does with the role, but I'm afraid he will diminish it because he can't perform it, can't put it across like a seasoned actor can, so that the publicity stunt of his presence in it will diminish the performance, even as it brings a few people into the audience who wouldn't be there otherwise. Will they come back? Will they even "get it"? Does it matter?

I think Cristian is on to something. These stunts mix fine fare with junk food.

Why MCB's marketers keep trying to connect ballet with sports may have to do with their ignorance of ballet - "I go sometimes" is another telling remark I got from a marketer one time - I think it's a good idea some try to find out what they're selling, but in the meantime it looks like they're doing what I think I see marketers doing nearly everywhere - selling everything much the same way, using the same generic methods.

But isn't the experience of art basically different from the experience of watching sporting events? Where's the art in sports? It's not all the same stuff.

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The gangster is a very small cameo, and I've never seen a seasoned actor perform it. For me, it's usually the thrill of hearing a dance speak that one line, and a little awkwardness is no big deal to me.

A baseball player like Piazza has far more experience in the public eye -- attendance at a rainy, cold mid-week afternoon game in April from perpetual cellar-dwellers can exceed the total number of people who see "Slaughter" in a run -- performing, making public appearances, and having a microphone stuck in his face -- than the average dancer who performs the role.

Sportsmen especially are brought in to counter the idea that ballet is a sissy activity. Without a culture like Russia's that extols its dancers (ballet, ballroom) and skaters, despite rampant homophobia, this is about the only sell to most men in North America, like it or not. Every time an athlete is interviewed and talks about how difficult ballet is and how the men are athletes, and about their (often newfound) respect for their temporary colleagues, this is a win, and ballet companies can't buy that kind of publicity or the example of the macho guy who shows humility and genuine appreciation, in short, who recognizes.

I don't care if he does it for his daughters, which I find kind of sweet: my father brought us to the ballet when we were young because it was important to us, and the sight of a 6'8" basketball player holding his little niece's hand in the lobby when "Nutcracker" or "Cinderella" is playing -- (Oh, where is my tissue...)

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Piazza is just for Miami, and I'm not sure whether for all performances there. At the Kravis, the "Gangster" was alternated between Renato Penteado and Carlos Guerra. Both looked great. Penteado had some difficulties with his only laugh line ... "I woulda worn my tux.".

I didn't see you on Friday. Glad to know you were there!

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... this is about the only sell to most men in North America, like it or not. Every time an athlete is interviewed and talks about how difficult ballet is and how the men are athletes, and about their (often newfound) respect for their temporary colleagues, this is a win, and ballet companies can't buy that kind of publicity or the example of the macho guy who shows humility and genuine appreciation, in short, who recognizes. ...

Is it a win if the North American men who hear this, watch some ballet as a consequence, and find out it doesn't look hard are puzzled by what they see?

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... my father brought us to the ballet when we were young because it was important to us...

Aha! Could you elaborate on how ballet became important to you?

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This is a standard practice in the arts now -- most Nutcrackers around here have some kind of guest performance in the party scene drawn from their community or the local media, and that's just one ballet. Off the top of my head, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nut has had basketball players, football players, weather forecasters and donors perform in the "Grandfather" dance. I cannot remember if Kent Stowell choreographed it specifically to be danceable by amateurs, but it brings them extra attention during a season where there's a lot of competition for audiences.

As far as recognizing the athleticism of the artform is concerned, I've sat through multiple lecture-demonstrations in local schools where young boys are impressed when they recognize the physical skills that support what they tended to think was a "sissy" activity.

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Is it a win if the North American men who hear this, watch some ballet as a consequence, and find out it doesn't look hard are puzzled by what they see?

I don't think they could go and actually watch a ballet and not think it's hard, even it if the difficulty is only recognizable in the Hoofer. Besides, a sports hero told them it was hard.

... my father brought us to the ballet when we were young because it was important to us...

Aha! Could you elaborate on how ballet became important to you?

I saw some ballet excerpt either on the Ed Sullivan show or Firestone Theater or Bell Telephone Hour and was hooked, just like the first time I saw figure skating and gymnastics. I think my sister just wanted to get out of the house smile.png

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...

I don't think they could go and actually watch a ballet and not think it's hard, even it if the difficulty is only recognizable in the Hoofer. Besides, a sports hero told them it was hard.

That reminds me of the man sitting next to me one evening who said to no one in particular, during the first applause interruption, "That didn't look hard." "You thought it would look hard?" I asked. "Yeah, they told us it was hard." "Well, it is hard, but they're so good, they make it look easy." "Oh." I'm sorry I didn't pursue the subject or remember now whether he stayed.

I saw some ballet excerpt either on the Ed Sullivan show or Firestone Theater or Bell Telephone Hour and was hooked, just like the first time I saw figure skating and gymnastics.

There was no influence from the presence of a guest celebrity or the thought that it was hard when I got hooked, either, but the two of us, or three, counting the man on my right that evening, make a statistically insignificant sample. These examples support my position but not very much.

The thing that bothers me about the generic approach I'm questioning is that if some few of 'em do like it, then what? They're on their own, right? Or if they don't like the first one, or the whole program, and decide never to return, unaware that ballets are not all the same, then what? The concentration on "newbies" - people who have never seen any ballet, right? - seems to me to drop the ball as soon as it's in play. Or maybe ballets are all the same? Ballet is ballet is ballet?

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The thing that bothers me about the generic approach I'm questioning is that if some few of 'em do like it, then what? They're on their own, right? Or if they don't like the first one, or the whole program, and decide never to return, unaware that ballets are not all the same, then what? The concentration on "newbies" - people who have never seen any ballet, right? - seems to me to drop the ball as soon as it's in play. Or maybe ballets are all the same? Ballet is ballet is ballet?

The costs of acquiring are almost always much more expensive than the costs of retaining. Ballet companies will take most new audiences that they can get, especially when there's valuable, free publicity involved. tutu just posted a link to a Sesame Street segment in which four NYCB ballerinas appear. I bet some kids who have no idea what ballet is saw that video.

Some people will try lots of things, and only some things will stick. If an opera company has an acting/super character from the community, and some people come because of it, they'll think that opera is "Turandot" or "Die Meistersinger" or, what's being advertised right now in Vancouver, "Tea." That may make them stay away forever, or it may make a lifetime fan out of them.

Neither opera nor ballet should be a club with a secret handshake and an admissions test, although Lincoln Kirstein tried that with Ballet Society. Someone who buys a ticket a mixed bill with "Slaughter" with Mike Piazza will certainly see that ballet isn't one thing, much more so than someone who sees "Swan Lake" or goes to "Marriage of Figaro." If something clicks, people who tend to want to know lots will start to read about ballet, check out YouTube videos, go to pre-performance lectures, just as they might delve into baseball statistics. For others they might go again to be entertained. Still, new audiences are being developed, just as ballet companies have groups for younger, usually single, people, and there are online meet-up groups for seeing various cultural events for people who want to share the experience.

George Balanchine had his dancers shilling cars at a Worlds Fair and choreographed for elephants. They're not dumbing down "Slaughter" by having Mike Piazza play Gangster, in my opinion. They didn't cast him as Drosselmeier, nor is he taking part in Felix's version of "Swan Lake."

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I do think that no matter how much we wish that the arts would be divorced from "business," there is always a "business" side to things. So I do think that the PR people at ballet companies are trying hard to fill seats in a pop music culture. It probably is very hard. So they try many different things. I don't always like the ideas, but that doesn't mean they might not work. It sounds like this did gain them lots of publicity, so it may have worked splendidly from a business standpoint.

On the other hand I noticed lots of empty seats at Friday night's MCB performance. I don't know if a lot of Palm Beachers returned to NY already or what, but it was much more empty than other shows earlier in the season. I suspect it might have something to do with the repertoire. As lovely as Dances at a Gathering is, it doesn't bring down the house. And Slaughter on 10th Avenue is fun but it is very pop culture oriented. I actually think MCB's strategy of usually ending the season with a full-length story ballet is a better idea, and it looks like they are going back to that strategy next season with Don Quixote. The story ballets seem to always get a pretty good turn out.

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